Thursday, May 28, 2009

They Really Believe This Shit!

Steve Benen compares Republican stance on Estrada with Republican claims about Sotomayor. Picking out GOP hypocrisy is too easy, but it does verify the realization I had after the Palin selection that Republicans actually believe their own rhetoric about identity politics. The way they handled the Estrada campaign -- rampant accusations that Latinos were going to hate Democrats forever for bottling up his nomination, and that only racism could explain it -- made it clear that they really did think that the way most American Latinos understood racism was "opposing a Latino for any reason." And whether they viewed that outlook as savory or not, they tried to exploit it. It didn't seem to occur to them that Latinos are sophisticated political actors who can understand opposition to a presidential nominee of their own ethnicity (indeed, might share it!) based on substance, and thus would not find Democratic attacks on Estrada problematic insofar as they stemmed from the perfectly reasonable (for a Democrat) objection that he was too conservative.

In contrast to the ideology-focused campaign against Estrada, Matt Yglesias points out,
The argument about Sonia Sotomayor consists of the idea that we should discount her career and her degrees because those are just the results of the kind of “preferential treatment” that poor Puerto Rican girls from the projects get. We’ve also heard that she has a troubling fondness for Puerto Rican food. That it’s unreasonable that she pronounces her name as if it’s a Spanish word. We’ve heard that she’s a soft-hearted woman who wants to set aside the law in favor of empathetic victims, and also heard complaints that she’s failed to set aside the law in order to help out empathetic white people. These kind of criticisms are going to drive Hispanics away from the conservative cause not because conservatives are criticizing a Latina, but because they’re criticizing her in terms that imply a generalized skepticism about the qualifications of all American Hispanics, a loathing of Latin culture, and a monomaniacal obsession with defending the interests of white people.

Karl Rove took the tepid Latino backlash to the anti-Estrada campaign as a sign that its open season on Sotomayor. But that only makes sense if one adheres to the spectacularly unsophisticated view of racism that Republicans hold. Applied to Sotomayor, they are going to choke on those words.


PG said...

There was some crazy in-fighting within the Latino community over Estrada, that at one point degenerated into accusations that MALDEF wasn't supporting him because they wanted the first Latino justice to be Mexican-American.

chingona said...

Reading that list of who was on which side, the in-fighting seems distinctly non-crazy.

LULAC and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are groups that are basically fine with the status quo and don't want to rock the boat. They just want Latinos to get their piece of the pie. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's the perspective they bring.

The groups opposing Estrada are all pretty liberal groups with distinctly activist origins who want to shake things up and remake the system.

Why should they agree on the nomination of a conservative Hispanic?

MALDEF and LULAC both are supporting the Sotomayor nomination. LULAC doesn't care about her politics. They just want to see a Latino/a on the bench. She's liberal enough for MALDEF, despite being Puerto Rican.

PG said...


It's the accusation that MALDEF was opposing Estrada because he wasn't Mexican that struck me as crazy. Your statement that MALDEF had non-ethnic reasons for opposing him would seem to support that.